Weekly News Summary for Admins — 2022-04-22

Yesterday, Apple updated the support article on macOS Server stating the app has been discontinued. They also announced that the Fleetsmith service, which they have maintained since the acquisition in 2020 will be discontinued in October.

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The end of both macOS Server and Fleetsmith do not come as a surprise. Apple gutted the functionality of macOS Server in 2018. Back then I wrote a post with my thoughts, and they still hold up well. Most management features and workflows now come from hosted cloud services.

All that was left were Profile Manager and Open Directory. With the release of Apple Business Essentials there is no need for macOS Server/Profile Manager and Fleetsmith to continue. There will surely be missing features and elements, and it will be the MacAdmin’s job to identify these and find workarounds and alternative solutions. For example, Apple Business Essentials is currently only available in the US. MacAdmins in other regions have to look at third party solutions.

File Sharing, Time Machine Server, Content Caching, and Xsan are now part of ‘normal’ macOS. Xcode Server moved into Xcode and then into the cloud.

The macOS Server app cannot be found in the Mac App Store anymore. You can still find it in the list of purchased apps. macOS Server 5.12.2 will be the last update. It should continue to work on Macs running Monterey, but the description in the Mac App Store explicitly points out it will “not be compatible with future versions of macOS.”

Nevertheless, this is a moment to be nostalgic about Mac OS X Server.

Mac OS X Server 1.0 was released before Mac OS X for the client, mostly as a proof of concept, but also as a platform for some services, such as Apple FileSharing, NetBoot and WebObjects. Together with the Xserve and Xserve RAID, Mac OS X Server was part of a strategy to provide services and management to fleets of Macs, in a time where support from third-parties was challenging to non-existent. Even though the path wasn’t always smooth, or even clear, it was an important part of what made enterprise style deployments of Macs possible.

Apple canceled the Xserve and changed the distribution and price model of Mac OS X Server in 2011, and an era ended. Apple ceded most of the services to third parties, some of which were and are rivals, such as Microsoft and Google. With few exceptions, Apple always seemed to be following instead of leading in this field and in the end, the commitment wasn’t there. Nevertheless, the modern tools for MacAdmins: MDM, Automated Device Enrollment, and all the various workflows, all have their roots in the previous server tools.

Because Apple’s tools, documentation and support were often… a challenge, this time also generated the MacAdmin community, in mailing lists like ‘mac-enterprise’, IRC chat rooms and later the MacAdmins Slack. This is also when the MacAdmins culture of sharing and open source emerged, which is still alive and well.

In most ways, Mac OS X Server ended in 2011, then again in 2018. What was left was finally discontinued yesterday. But, during its lifetime, Mac OS X Server and the many people who worked on and with it, defined and earned a place for Macs and Apple devices in organisations and enterprises.

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macOS Server

MacAdmins on Social

  • Glenn Fleishman: “As Apple expands communication safety to the UK (on-device AI-based ID of images with nudity for kids < 18), note the version rolled out doesn’t include an option for parental notification (for under 13). Apple proposed that as two separate options, but hasn’t added the second.”
  • Rich Trouton: “In the wake of macOS Server being discontinued, a non-zero number of folks will now need to look at migrating away from Open Directory to something else. Charles Edge has guidance available

Security and Privacy

Support and HowTos

Scripting and Automation

Apple Support

Updates and Releases

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